Mood Disorders


For some people with mood disorders, the extreme emotional pain they experience becomes unendurable. Overwhelmed by hopelessness, devastated by incapacitating feelings of worthlessness, and burdened with the inability to adequately cope with such feelings, they may consider suicide to be a reasonable way out. Suicide, defined by the CDC as “death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with any intent to die as the result of the behavior” (CDC, 2013a), in a sense represents an outcome of several things going wrong all at the same time Crosby, Ortega, & Melanson, 2011). Not only must the person be biologically or psychologically vulnerable, but he must also have the means to perform the suicidal act, and he must lack the necessary protective factors (e.g., social support from friends and family, religion, coping skills, and problem-solving skills) that provide comfort and enable one to cope during times of crisis or great psychological pain (Berman, 2009).

Suicide is not listed as a disorder in the DSM-5; however, suffering from a mental disorder—especially a mood disorder—poses the greatest risk for suicide. Around 90% of those who complete suicides have a diagnosis of at least one mental disorder, with mood disorders being the most frequent (Fleischman, Bertolote, Belfer, & Beautrais, 2005). In fact, the association between major depressive disorder and suicide is so strong that one of the criteria for the disorder is thoughts of suicide, as discussed above (APA, 2013).

Suicide rates can be difficult to interpret because some deaths that appear to be accidental may in fact be acts of suicide (e.g., automobile crash). Nevertheless, investigations into U.S. suicide rates have uncovered these facts:

  • Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in 2010 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2012).
  • There were 38,364 suicides in 2010 in the United States—an average of 105 each day (CDC, 2012).
  • Suicide among males is 4 times higher than among females and accounts for 79% of all suicides; firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide for males, whereas poisoning is the most commonly used method for females (CDC, 2012).
  • From 1991 to 2003, suicide rates were consistently higher among those 65 years and older. Since 2001, however, suicide rates among those ages 25–64 have risen consistently, and, since 2006, suicide rates have been greater for those ages 65 and older (CDC, 2013b). This increase in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans has prompted concern in some quarters that baby boomers (individuals born between 1946–1964) who face economic worry and easy access to prescription medication may be particularly vulnerable to suicide (Parker-Pope, 2013).
  • The highest rates of suicide within the United States are among American Indians/Alaskan natives and Non-Hispanic Whites (CDC, 2013b).
  • Suicide rates vary across the United States, with the highest rates consistently found in the mountain states of the west (Alaska, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho) (Berman, 2009).

Contrary to popular belief, suicide rates peak during the springtime (April and May), not during the holiday season or winter. In fact, suicide rates are generally lowest during the winter months (Postolache et al., 2010).